Box Island App

If you’re looking for a new mobile app to try for Hour of Code, Box Island might be the one for you. The full version is not available yet, but there is an Hour of Code version that you can get for free in the iTunes or Google Play app store.  There are 20 levels in this free version, and the difficulty increases slightly with each one.  I must admit that even with my somewhat varied experience with coding apps there were a couple of levels that I had try a few times before reaching the goal.

The app is designed for ages 6+.  Your basic mission is to program  Hiro (an animated blue box) to collect a stopwatch through paths and obstacles that get harder as the player learns more skills. Although there is a bit of reading involved, I think that pre-readers would still be able to enjoy this game with little guidance, as the arrows are pretty self-explanatory.

Box Island’s Hour of Code page offers solutions, lesson plans, and a detailed curriculum that explains the computer science involved in playing the game.There are 3 sections in the game: Sequences (levels 1-6), Loops (levels 7-13) and Conditionals (levels 14-20).  You can also print out a certificate of completion for the students once they finish all of the levels.

Box Island isn’t ground-breaking as programming apps go, but it’s a good app for introducing the skills that are needed in many programming languages.

boxisland

EdCampSA

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

edcampsa

Last Saturday, I attended my third EdCamp ever.  It was EdCampSA, and it was hosted at Churchill High School in San Antonio by the following wonderful people:

  • James Barton
  • Miguel Guhlin
  • Todd Bloomer
  • Mary Ray
  • Marguerite Lowak
  • Jeannine Freeman
  • Roland Rios

EdCamps are also known as “unconferences.”  They are unique because participants have absolutely no idea what they will be learning about until about 30 minutes after they show up.  EdCamp sessions are created by the attendees at the beginning of the day. The sessions are not presentations, but discussions about the suggested topics.

Several of my colleagues from NEISD attended. One of them had never been to an EdCamp before.  At the end of the day, she commented that she had learned more in one day than at many 3-day conferences she has attended in the past.

You can see the sessions that were ultimately created at this year’s EdCampSA here along with the session notes.  There are a lot of great recommendations for everything from iPads in the Elementary classroom to 3D Printing.

Here are some of the apps I learned about that I can’t wait to try:

  • Pirate Cam
  • News-o-matic
  • Apollo by Atlas Learning (supposedly similar to Nearpod)

Pear Deck and http://quizizz.com/ are two other resources I would like to check out.  (The latter one is supposedly similar to Kahoot, but can be self-paced and has fun response memes.)

Another idea – how about taking a look at https://e.newsela.com/ for great non-fiction for elementary students?

Charlotte Dolat, who is our area director for TCEA, shared that we should search for TASA on iTunes University because it has lots of curriculum lesson ideas with technology integration.  (I can’t wait to start exploring that!)

That’s just a sampling of what I learned at EdCampSA.  It was another fantastic EdCamp experience and I can’t wait until the next one!

If you live near San Antonio, Texas, take a look at the upcoming Tech Field Day on November 7th, 2015.  This is another free conference that promises to offer a great day of learning at Cole High School! Dr. Roland Rios, who also co-hosted EdCampSA, is in charge of Tech Field Day – so I guarantee you will have fun and learn a ton!

 

Zoombinis

A few months ago I gushed about a Kickstarter campaign that promised to bring one of my favorite computer games ever, Zoombinis, to the 21st century.  Due to the success of that campaign, the Zoombinis app is now available on iTunes and Google Play. Windows, Mac, and Kindle Fire versions will be available later this year.

I was excited to download the app a few weeks ago when it finally became available to Kickstarter supporters. Back when we were allowed to download our own software, I had the game in my classroom for my students to play.  I highly respected the logic skills the game promoted, so when my daughter was younger, I bought a version for her to try at home.

My daughter is now 12, and vaguely remembers playing the original game.  I guessed that she would like the app, but I did not predict the high level of engagement that I’ve observed the last few weeks.

The Zoombinis game is all about logic.  Your goal is to get the Zoombinis to their new home, navigating through perilous puzzles along the way.  Each Zoombini has the following attributes that can be mixed and matched: hair, eyes, feet, and noses.  The challenges are based on those attributes.

For example, the Allergy Cliffs have 2 bridges.  If you place a Zoombini on the correct bridge, the little guy will quickly cross.  If it’s the wrong bridge, the cliff sneezes him or her off.  You have to figure out the “rule” for each bridge.  Only blue noses?  Only the ones with glasses?  Carefully test your theories before too many sneezes make you lose some Zoombinis.

AllergyCliffs

There are several different types of puzzles along the journey. If you aren’t good at one, that’s okay; the puzzle remains on that level until you’ve mastered it. Each puzzle is tailored to your skills, so after a few trips to the end you may end up with different puzzles on different levels of difficulty.

mapOne particular favorite is the pizza puzzle.  You must figure out exactly what toppings Arno wants on his pizza.  Children quickly learn that you need to be methodical because random guesses will end up with a Zoombini or two getting booted off the screen.
Pizza

Playing Zoombinis together is a fun way for my daughter and I to bond.  It’s also a great opportunity to model problem-solving skills. One of the most frustrating qualities of the game is also one of the best qualities – very few instructions are given.  Watching a child struggle is never easy, but the way his or her face lights up when solving a Zoombinis problem makes it all worthwhile.

The Zoombinis app is $4.99.  This may seem like an enormous amount for an app, but I guarantee that it’s worth it.  It teaches so many thinking skills and sustains interest for a very long time.  If you are a teacher or a parent of multiple children, you will be happy to know that different students can save games on the same iPad so their progress won’t be lost.

This game is cute, fun, and educational.  What are you waiting for? Download it today!

 

Crowd Mics

Raise your hand if you teach in a portable.

Why aren’t you raising your hand?

Oh, you can’t hear me.  

WHY CAN’T YOU HEAR ME?

Oh yes, because of the deafening roar of the air conditioner, which will sooner or later be replaced by the deafening roar of the heater.

No problem.  I can talk louder.

CAN YOU TALK LOUDER? 

Various versions of the above conversation happen daily in my classroom.  I was spoiled by having a sound system in my last school and I have been looking for a low-cost alternative ever since I moved into my portable classroom 4 years ago.

I think I may have found a solution – at least for those of you who have a couple of mobile devices you would be willing to dedicate to the cause.

Crowd Mics is a free app available on iTunes and Google Play.  The concept is simple.  Download the app on two different devices.  One device will be the receiver, and you will need to plug a good speaker into the headphone jack.  The other device will be the microphone.

Open the app connected to your speaker and create an event as a presenter.  You don’t have to log in, although that is an option. Make a 3-digit password that microphone users will enter when they join your event.  Choose if you want people to use the microphone whenever they want (Open Mic) or if you want to give them permission first (Select Mic).

The microphone device needs to be using the same wi-fi network as the receiver.  Open Crowd Mics on the microphone device and choose the event you created and enter  the 3-digit password.

Press down on the indicated area of your screen and speak.

Crowd Mics

If you have the same good fortune that shined on me, the microphone voice will be amplified so everyone in the room can hear it.

The free version of Crowd Mics will work with up to 5 “microphone” devices. If you are a frequent presenter at large conferences, you might want to look at the paid version for larger crowds.

Some caveats: this won’t work through bluetooth (the speaker must be plugged into the headphone jack) and both microphone and receiver must be on the same wi-fi network.  Also, this will only sound as good as your speakers.  I tried it with one of my small, portable speakers and could barely hear a thing at top volume. When I plugged the receiver iPad into my classroom speakers, however, the magic happened.

This solution is only low-cost if you have the equipment already.  My plan is to have an iPad/microphone at each table so it doesn’t have to be passed around, and other apps can still be used during class. Since construction is about to start right outside my window, I hope this plan works!

Digital Curation Step #3 – Examine Past Errors

Click on these links if you missed them: Step #1 and Step #2.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got thrown a curve in my quest to conquer my digital hoarding addiction.  I thought the Pocket app would solve my problems by putting everything I wanted to save from Tweets and other online sources in one searchable list – until I noticed that I wasn’t always given the option to “Send to Pocket.”  It took me awhile to see my error.  If a Tweet didn’t have a link, I couldn’t send it to Pocket.

Now, I know there are other ways to save things.  I could, for example, take a screen shot.  But that would mean I wouldn’t have everything in one place – which is critical for me.

So, I did a bit more research and discovered a possible “workaround.”  What if I could take a screen shot, and automatically give it a link?  Then Pocket would accept it.  But that would still require me having to find the link and send it to Pocket 🙁

Unless…

Ah ha! I found a workaround for the workaround!  Perfect!

Now, you’re going to have to have a little faith here.  For Step #3, I’m going to tell you to create a Bit.ly account.  Don’t worry.  Like Pocket, Bit.ly is also free.  Perhaps you already have a Bit.ly account, and you are wondering how  in the world this is going to help streamline your digital curation.

That will be revealed tomorrow in Step #4 – learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior or, for short, learning a new code 😉

Bit.ly

Give the Green Light with a Green Screen

“You mean they didn’t really go there?” a student asked me.

She was pointing to a bulletin board of Photo Mapo projects by my 1st graders.  Each student had chosen a Google Street View image of a landmark in the country they were studying.  Using the Green Screen app by DoInk, the students inserted pictures of themselves in front of the landmarks.  They also took video of themselves explaining the landmarks.  The pictures were inserted into Photo Mapo, linked to their videos on Aurasma, and presto – interactive postcards.

Photo Apr 14, 8 52 49 AM

Several of my grade levels have taken advantage of the Green Screen app we purchased this year.  My 2nd graders used it to portray themselves in front of famous bridges around the world, and one chose to use it to make a video about her biomimetic invention.

Biomimicry

In yesterday’s post, I showed how word clouds can be fun with the Green Screen app (thanks to Tricia Fuglestad for the idea).

Tricia also gave me the idea for the Time Magazine covers my 5th graders worked on last week.  Here is a link to her post about this project.  For our own versions, my students used Green Screen by DoInk and Canva.

Time Magazine (Some of my students have become so familiar with using the screen that they automatically turn it around to the blue side if a student is wearing green so he or she won’t appear as a disembodied head.

If you want some more green screen ideas, I highly recommend you do a search on Tricia’s Fugleblog.  Don’t have the ability to buy apps? Touchcast is free, though not quite as user friendly for younger students.  No green screen in your classroom?  There are tons of instructions for makeshift screens on the web, including pizza boxes, science boards, sheets, and paint.

Let your students travel to any continent, planet, or even the future with a green screen.